United States district court has sentenced Abidemi Rufai, suspended aide of Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, to five years in prison for $350k fraud.
Gatekeepers News earlier reported that Rufai was arrested at New York’s JFK Airport on his way to Nigeria in May 2021.
In May 2022, the U.S. Attorney, Nick Brown, said Rufai admitted using stolen identities to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in pandemic-related unemployment benefits.
The former aide to Governor Dapo Abiodun also admitted to have since 2017 obtained identifying information for more than 20,000 Americans, submitted $2 million in claims for disaster relief and other federal benefits, and received more than $600,000.
The largest amount of fraud was committed against the Washington state employment security department, which paid out $350,763 in fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims to accounts controlled by Rufai.
He was also said to have submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims in at least 17 other states including Hawaii, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania.
While requesting for a nearly six-year prison sentence, Assistant United States Attorney, Cindy Chang stated that Rufai’s scam hurt actual people who needed assistance.
Chang said “In this case, Rufai successfully used the stolen identities of at least 238 real individuals who qualified for disaster aid and may have needed it urgently. This number does not account for the number of stolen identities Rufai attempted to use but failed.”
At the sentencing hearing on Monday, Benjamin H. Settle, US district judge said: “The motivation was greed, unrestrained greed, and a callousness towards those who have suffered.”
Meanwhile US Attorney, Nick Brown said, “Mr. Rufai was relentless in his scheme to use the stolen identities of Americans for fraud.
“He orchestrated ‘mystery shopper’ scams, business email compromise attempts, and filed fake tax returns to financially harm individuals and businesses. But when disaster struck, so did Mr. Rufai. Whether it was hurricane disaster relief, small business loans, or COVID unemployment benefits, he stole aid that should have gone to disaster victims in the United States.”
The US Department of Justice in a statement said 45-year-old Rufai “has agreed to pay full restitution of $604,260 to the defrauded agencies.”
The statement, however, added that “he has not fully cooperated with efforts to identify and forfeit assets that could be used for restitution”.